I didn’t have a whole lot of time on this trip to document our days as we lived them, so this post is going to be about reconstructing the last 7 days.
1. Friday: We put Punk on the bus to Logan airport for her trip to England (which I may get to tell you about later, depending on how much she tells me) on Thursday morning, and Friday was our travel day. Sweet Pea stayed over Thursday night, and we managed to get on the road (after a quick trip to the market for road snacks and a stop back home for my sunglasses) at about 9:45 or so. We didn’t meet any traffic to speak of, though we did encounter some good rain on the last bit of Pennsylvania through to Dudley’s house, where we spent the first two nights of our trip. Dudley had pizza waiting for us when we arrived and we spent the rest of the evening in front of The Hunt for Red October on his big (giant) screen. The viewing of that film on the first night of our stay with him is becoming something of a tradition. I dig that.
2. Saturday: The men had a tee time, so after breakfast at Bob Evans, they headed for golf while the girls and I spent some time wandering around the big outlet mall up the highway. This satisfied both Bean’s need to be outdoors and moving around and Sweet Pea’s desire to shop. While we were there, I got a nice backpack from Columbia and a deeply discounted denim jacket from Eddie Bauer, and Sweet Pea got some really cute clothes. When we’d had enough retail therapy, we headed back to Dudley’s and the girls disappeared into their room while I made use of Dudley’s basement fitness center (of which I am exceedingly jealous and may try to recreate here at Chez Chili) for a bit of a run while I waited for the boys to come home (side note: I’m clearly getting fitter, even if I’m not getting lighter; I’m able to actually run for intervals now when I really couldn’t a month ago). After that and a quick shower, we piled into the car for a tour of the Antietam National Battlefield. It’s a really nice park; one starts at the visitor’s center and museum, where there’s an introductory film and a collection of artifacts from the battle, then one gets in the car and drives to a series of stops where there are explanatory placards and monuments to show what happened there.
Bean and Sweet Pea overlooking a field.
After that, we headed to a market for some supper supplies and then back home, where Dudley created a gigantic and impressive salad accompanied by grilled chicken and portbello caps with melted cheese. YUM.
3. Sunday: We bid Dudley goodbye and made our way to DC, stopping first at the hotel where we were spending the night to leave our things (we couldn’t check in yet, but the Metro station was across the street from the hotel, so we were able to leave our car for free). Metro passes secured, we hopped on a yellow train and emerged into daylight at L’Enfant Plaza. By that time, we were pretty hungry, so our first order of business was securing lunch. Mr. Chili and I recalled that the cafeteria in the National Gallery of Art was varied, tasty, and reasonably priced (for the area), so that’s where we aimed for first. After lunch, we decided to stay in the National Gallery; Mr. Chili and Bean headed for the modern art section and Sweet Pea and I made our way to where the classical art was being exhibited. I was thrilled to see some Monet and Degas paintings, but what really hit me (because I wasn’t expecting it) was Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial. This is one of my favorite things to see in Boston; I make a point of hiking up the hill to see it every time I’m in that part of the city, but I didn’t know that another casting had been made and was on display at the National Gallery. I literally gasped as I turned the corner and saw it; it was a lovely surprise.
When we’d reconnected with Dad and Bean, the four of us headed to the Natural History Museum. The girls were excited to see this museum, though I was sort of lukewarm about it; we’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Natural History during our previous visits, and I feel like I’ve seen everything that I want to see in it, but the girls’ excitement was catchy, so in we went. We agreed to meet at the elephant in an hour and a half; they aimed straight for the dinosaurs while Mr. Chili and I wended our way through the rocks and minerals displays (he likes the asteroids; I’m fond of the crystals and gems). I got to see my perfect quartz sphere and the Hope Diamond (which they’ve taken out of that dreadful setting it was in the last time I saw it and have restored it to this one:)
That was about all we had in us for that day, so we headed back to the Metro and back to the car. Mr. Chili had enjoyed dinner at a Whole Foods while he was working in Boston a few weeks ago. We don’t have a Whole Foods near us, and I’d never been to one, so we decided to try dinner there. The choices were staggering – and mostly yummy (though I tried some sort of wheat berry salad that I found completely unpalatable – I’m glad I only took a small scoop). Once dinner was done, we scored some provisions (and some cookies!) and headed back to the hotel so the girls could do some swimming.
4. Monday. We checked out of the hotel (but were able to leave our car in the parking lot for the day, saving us about 10 bucks in parking charges at the Metro lot) and hopped back on the train. The girls weren’t nearly done with the Natural History Museum yet, so we sent them across the Mall to go back while Mr. Chili and I checked out the Freer and Sackler galleries.
I was both staggered and disappointed by these museums. There are some stunningly beautiful pieces on display, and the museum is laid out such that the progression through the collection is logical and smooth. The space is gorgeous, and the exhibits are displayed in a way that is clean and uncluttered. I think that’s part of my disappointment, though; I wanted to see MORE. We were hoping to see Hokusai’s The Great Wave, but the only place we saw any of his pieces was in the gift shop (which was another disappointment; I REALLY wanted to buy a reproduction of some of the buddhas and bodisattvas I saw in the collection, but they didn’t offer a single one). All in all, though, I’m glad we went to these galleries; I really love Chinese and Japanese art, and there were some really remarkable pieces in these museums.
We found the girls and headed to the Old Downtown neighborhood to have lunch at a little place Mr. Chili found called Teaism. Of course, we hit it at exactly lunch rush, so I don’t think we enjoyed the experience as much as we likely would have otherwise. I had a bento box of chicken pieces and rice, some sort of ginger cucumber salad, and a sweet potato concoction that was really quite good.
Lunch consumed, we made our lazy way back to the Mall, stopping at the Naval Memorial (which I wasn’t expecting to see this trip, but which we sort of happened on on our way through a courtyard), then to the Old Post Office building, where I had some ice cream and the girls bought candy. We took the free Tower Tour; an elevator brings you up the Post Office Tower where you get some pretty good views of the city.
After that, we made our last stop for the day at the American History Museum. I love the American History Museum, mostly because nearly everything in it has some sort of cultural significance, and I’ve never been to the Museum when there hasn’t been some sort of focus on the American struggle toward full equality for all of its citizens. The exhibits being featured while we were there this time included a pair of displays that very logically and convincingly connected the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights Movement; I’ve seen reenactments of the Lunch Counter Sit-Ins and, many years ago, a really well-done exhibit chronicling the work of Suffragettes. I also love the First Ladies and Presidents exhibits (which are rotating exhibits, so even though I’ve seen both several times, I get to see something different every time).
We were good and done by the time we finished our exploration of the American History Museum, so we got back on the M and headed to the apartment Mr. Chili had secured us at National Harbor. Think “Disneyland for grown-ups:” this place is a self-contained, high end playground. There are shops everywhere, upscale hotels and condo complexes, and all kinds of restaurants. Sweet Pea noticed a sandwich shop on the map that she used to enjoy when she lived in Indiana, so that’s where we went for supper that night. I had a yummy chicken salad sandwich, then we got some ice cream. The girls did some swimming in the indoor pool at our apartment complex while I did some homework.
5. Tuesday: I started off on Tuesday by getting tickets to the exhibits at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for later in the afternoon, but the morning was all about monuments. We started at the World War II Memorial, which is undergoing some repairs (or perhaps an expansion? I couldn’t really tell), so all the water features were turned off, making the memorial slightly less impressive than it would otherwise have been. Undaunted, we hung about for a bit to watch a ceremonial wreath-laying by an impressive showing of veterans. Next, we walked to the Washington Memorial (which we could only view from afar, given that the earthquake a few years ago caused some damage that they’re still working on fixing. I was exhorted to slow down my pace (it seems I walk really fast, even when I’m not trying to) so that we could enjoy the stroll to the Lincoln Memorial along the Reflecting Pool (where we saw a lot of duck butts; apparently, it was breakfast time). We spent a lovely time communing with Mr. Lincoln, and I pointed out the typo on the Second Inaugural Address on Lincoln’s left side (I won’t tell you what it is; maybe you can find it for yourself!).
After standing on MLK’s speech spot on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,
we started toward his memorial, stopping first to have a look at the Korean War Memorial on the way (really, we only perused the Korean Memorial because I was in the lead and I thought I could go through it – for future reference, you can’t; you have to go out the way you went in). I was deeply moved by MLK’s memorial, and I found myself feeling bolstered to continue to work toward finding a job where I can feel like I’m doing real and meaningful good in the world.
Mr. Chili got this shot – all of my pictures had other tourists in the shot.
From there, we walked around the Basin to FDR’s memorial. I got a lot of pictures of the quotes on the walls, and I found myself conflicted about how to feel there. Understand that I was about to spend the rest of the afternoon in the Holocaust Museum, where I was certain I would see exhibits about the St. Louis and the failure of the American government to bomb concentration camp sites (or even the rail lines leading to them). FDR’s legacy is a complicated one, but his memorial is lovely and inspiring.
We were already more than halfway around the Basin, so we decided to finish the loop and make a stop at the Jefferson Memorial. The last time Mr. Chili and I were there was when Punk was a baby, and I’d forgotten the enormity of the statue of Jefferson; it really is overwhelming. I remember wondering whether these men – who worked so hard for the benefit of the future – would be embarrassed to find themselves, much larger than life, carved in stone or cast in bronze. I also found this quote which, given some of the national conversations we’re having about certain “rights,” was particularly relevant.
We were pretty wiped by then, so we found another sandwich shop in Sweet Pea’s chain (I had a chicken and cheddar sandwich this time, in case you care a whit about what I had for lunch), then we split up; I headed for the Holocaust Museum but the rest of my family, as I anticipated, wanted something a little lighter and so headed to the Air and Space Museum.
I had been to the Holocaust Museum before, but not for a very, very long time; in fact, I think the last time I was there was the year it opened, and that was well before I’d begun my own study of the Holocaust. I was both delighted and disappointed that I didn’t really learn anything new during this visit; that means that I’ve been trained very well (delighted) but also that I have to work harder to learn more than is generally offered up for public consumption (disappointed). As always, despite all of the things that I know and all of the displays that I saw in the permanent exhibit, this is what gets me every time:
Steven Johns was killed when James von Brunn, a white supremacist and Holocaust denier, entered the lobby with a .22 caliber rifle and shot Johns as he held the door open for him. It was only the quick work of two other security guards that prevented von Brunn from murdering many more people.
After my visit, I made my way to the Mall where I waited for my family to finish up their time at the Air and Space (and was delighted to be able to give directions, in ASL, to a Deaf woman who was looking for the Metro station!). When we all reconnected, we went back to the Metro, then back to the apartment, then ventured out to a restaurant on-property called Ketchup for dinner (then on to Ben and Jerry’s for Chocolate Therapy!). Thus ended that day.
6. Wednesday: Wednesday was our last full day in DC, and we began it with a Capitol tour that a former student, who has a sister who works for one of our Congresswomen, arranged for us. We arrived at the Capitol (which I’d only ever seen from the outside) and checked in early enough to not only get an earlier tour time, but also to be first in line! We watched a short movie, then were herded into roped-off lines to divide up the very big group of us. The tour guide we got was a little shrill, but she was knowledgeable and friendly enough. We got to see the “crypt” which, it seems, would have been Washington’s burial place had he not insisted on being buried at Mt. Vernon. The space is full of statues now. From there, we walked up the stairs to the Rotunda (and Mr. Chili pointed out that the stairs we were on are the same that lead to the space used for the inauguration, which gave me goosebumps!), where we spent some time gawking at paintings and sculpture and the incredible view upwards at the inside of the dome. After that, we headed to Statuary Hall, where we saw the newest addition to the collection; Rosa Parks.
From there, we were trying to figure out what to do for lunch when we walked past the Newseum. I’d heard about this place from NPR (they occasionally broadcast shows from there), and my friend Chatty had just posted facebook statuses about the fun she had there a few days ago (we were in the city together and didn’t even know it), so we decided to give it a shot. We were a little put off by the entry fee (the Smithsonian spoils us; everything is free!), but by the time we were through it, we were glad we’d ponied up the 80-something bucks for the family of four package. There’s a lot of really great exhibits in there, including a hall of news (with front pages from all kinds of important dates in history), a bunch of interactive exhibits and movies, a casting of the jail cell door from behind which Martin Luther King wrote Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and a really well done and moving exhibit about 9/11 and the work of journalists who were on-scene that day.
After that, we walked to the White House to have a peek. We ended up having to wait a while to see it, though, the street was blocked off so that Marine One could land on the lawn to pick up the President and First Lady for their trip to Texas for the opening of the Bush Library and the memorial service for the people killed in the chemical plant explosion. They flew practically directly over us on their way to Andrews Air Force Base. More goosebumps.
That was about all we could muster, so we made our way back to the Metro. We missed the shuttle to the condo, though, so we ended up having dinner in Alexandria at a place called Theisman’s (which is, I gather, owned by Joe himself). Sweet Pea and I shared a plate of astonishingly yummy mushroom ravioli. Back on the shuttle, back to the complex so Sweet Pea could buy some fancy tea and we could all get some more ice cream (I’m actually kind of glad there’s no Ben and Jerry’s shop near us at home!).
7. Thursday: Our travel back home day! We were packed up and ready to hit the road at 9:40, and Mr. Chili plotted us a route that kept us mostly out of traffic and away from tolls the whole way (we got snagged in Hartford, but we knew that was coming). Nothing much to tell you about here; car travel is car travel (though Sweet Pea did discover that she could access her Netflix on the go, so she entertained herself by watching some episodes of Firefly). We landed back in the Land of the Chilis at about 8:30 or so, delivered Sweet Pea back to her bio Dad, then headed home ourselves to a VERY noisy Toeses. I’m guessing he spent a lot of time yelling last week; he sounds pretty hoarse to me.
8. When I return to DC, I’m going to make a point of getting to the National Archives (I really want to see the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence) and to the National Portrait Gallery (that’s where I was going to go before we got distracted by the Newseum).
9. I’d also really like to tour the White House.
10. I love DC. Next to Boston, it’s the only city I’d want to live in. In fact, Mr. Chili and I were talking about how we could totally retire to a nice little condo in the DC area…